Re: Seeking advice on getting past idea stage
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Thu, 28 May 2009 07:52:25 -0700 (PDT)
I'm glad to hear of your progress in forming community, and appreciative
that you have taken the initiative to reach out and connect to the larger
movement - so many people and groups struggle to do it "all by themselves,"
and end up taking longer, failing more often, and struggling harder than
they need to. A key reason for my involvement in the communities movement,
and cohousing in particular, is to help people prevent that sort of
unnecessary effort - so they can be more successful, and put the energies
productively towards creating community.

You're fortunate to be in an area with lots of resources and events, as well
as existing communities that are a model for what you are trying to achieve.
There are regular tours and workshops, and lots of professional community
organizers, consultants, coaches and developers that can become part of your
team. I've listed some events below.

As a Cohousing Coach myself, I talk with a lot of people in your situation
(offering free initial conversations makes it easy to start the engagement),
and have found that while there's no one "right" way to do it, the more you
open up and connect and get the whole group engaged in the process (rather
than just assuming that one member is taking care of everything), the faster
you'll build capacity and shared experience - rather than spending months
debating design minutia, it can provide valuable conversational shorthand to
be able to say "like that one, but with these elements of that other one."

Right now, you've got a bunch of people. How much have they invested, in
terms of time and money? How much are they willing to risk? How committed
are they to the project? How open are they to new people and ideas? How
ready are they for some people to drop out when a particular site doesn't
meet their needs, or the financing doesn't work for them, or if they aren't
all in agreement about something that is a core value?

The process of forming community is one of convergence, gradually learning
together, building trust, and putting structures in place that increase your
chances of success - to the point where enough people with enough shared
find it worth enough to take the chance on going in together in a scary,
potentially expensive process. But the results are SO worth it, for
ourselves, for our extended communities, and for the Earth.

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
Planning for Sustainable Communities
at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing

Northern California Cohousing Regional Organizer

In chronological order, here's some upcoming opportunities relevant to your
Northern California locations, some nearer, some farther:

* This weekend, San Mateo EcoVillage (a cohousing-inspired retrofit small
green community right on the Bay) will be part of a "Maker Faire" table I'm
hosting at this big event in San Mateo. It's all about Do-It-Yourself
(D-I-Y) culture: hacking, crafts, art, science, and yes: community. My focus
is on "D-I-Y Neighborhoods" - cohousing and aging-in-community as well as
coworking. We probably could arrange a community visit since San Mateo
EcoVillage is just a mile from the site.

* North Bay grassroots sustainability education group Daily Acts is hosting
its annual carpool trip visiting cohousing neighborhoods and affordable
co-ops, from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, on Saturday, June 6th. This is smaller
than the bus tours, and visits some smaller communities like 40 Oaks, which
features lots of natural building and creative approaches to maximizing
density while staying legal.

* If anyone has Portland (OR) connections or is up for a weekend road trip
or overnight train trip (or taking advantage of last-minute weekend specials
on Alaska or United airlines, if they pop up), there are two talks at the
Village Building Convergence put on by City Repair on Friday and Saturday,
June 12 and 13: EcoVillage movement founder Robert Gilman and EcoVillage
newsletter publisher/educator Diana Leafe Christian, author of Creating a
Life Together, a book that will answer many of your questions (more on Diana
below). Plus, Eugene-based consensus/facilitation trainer Tree will be doing
some daytime workshops there, including one connected with an urban
EcoVillage. I'm planning a trip up there, and perhaps a talk myself.

* We'll be facilitating a discussion about green design and sustainable
community at an Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social
Responsibility (ADPSR) gathering in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday
evening, June 10.

* There's a bicycle tour of East Bay cohousing neighborhoods that community
organizer Karen Hester of Temescal Creek cohousing is leading on Sunday,
June 14.

* I may be up in Sacramento to show excerpts of the new "Visions of Utopia"
(part 2) documentary on communities on June 15 at Southside Park cohousing;
I'm awaiting confirmation on timing and whether the event is just for
community members. We have some copies for sale at the East Bay Cohousing
clubhouse in downtown Berkeley if you'd like to pick one up without waiting
or paying for shipping.

* The National Cohousing Conference is in late June in Seattle. If at least
one person from your group can make it there, even if you have to pool funds
to get 'em there, it will be well worth it... many pre-conference workshops
on community formation and development as well as opportunities to meet
movement leaders and professionals and your peers.

* Diana Leafe Christian will be in the Bay Area the week of July 4, speaking
and showing her EcoVillage slide show at the Commonwealth Club in San
Francisco on Thursday, July 9, and in Berkeley the day before or after (full
details will be posted here once confirmed). We'll be hosting her at the
downtown Berkeley East Bay Cohousing clubhouse (our Planning for Sustainable
Communities/Cohousing Coaches office) for a weekend workshop specifically
around forming community, full of relevant info - if several folks from your
group are interested and able to help with outreach, we can probably arrange
a quantity discount). We may be able to arrange some individual consulting
for your group while she's out here, as well.

* There's a Daily Acts co-sponsored walking tour that I'm leading of
Berkeley/North Oakland/Emeryville cohousing neighborhoods July 12, Sunday

* The next Coho/US bus tour in the area is in August.

I'll work on making sure that all of these events are listed in the
community events calendar on the Coho/US website (which I recommend that
everybody join, for free: )

But the place I first list happenings in the region is East Bay Cohousing: - join there to get notices as events are scheduled.

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